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Absolutely delightful. A trip down a memory lane for anybody who remembers the 80s geek culture, or has fondness for it. It's 2040s and 1980s just made a come back in a big way because one of the richest men in the world, James Halliday, designer of video games and specifically the fully-immersive virtual reality that is being used by everybody in the world, just died and left his fortune to the person who can win specially designed quest. The catch is that Halliday, ubergeek grown up in the 80s, thinks everybody should love the same movies, games and music as he did so that's what he based his quest on. Basically he is looking for a soul mate in the most screwed up way possible, postmortem. The rest is adventure, romance and geekiness galore in the best tradition of the 80s favorites. Author glossed over the technical solution for the incredibly powerful virtual reality world and sketchily describes what is essentially a dystopian future but on the other hand there is very little of moralizing or philosophizing which is common for similar settings (take Williams's Otherland, for instance), so it's all just great fun.

And there really was no chance for me to not like a book that contained Highlander references and quotes!

On a related note, the book made me seek out my favorite Atari title, Montezuma's Revenge, aka Monti, the one I spent hours upon hours on and also a ton of pocket money because, of course, there wasn't a personal computer in my 80s childhood so I had to go to one of the recently opened video game parlors. There is an emulator for it which actually works in my Windows VM! I was way better at it 20+ years ago :)
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Explaining to people what I do can be difficult. In most people's view bits get from point A to point B by magic and a network engineer is that geeky and rumpled looking guy who comes to fix your computer when you can't get to your e-mail or see your favorite web site, basically, when you declare your internet to be broken. So I decided to read something that's positioned as "going inside the Internet's physical infrastructure and flipping on the lights" just to see what we look like to an outside inquiring mind.

The proclaimed goal of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet was to find and describe the "real" internet, the one composed of cables and fibers and big routers, as opposed to the amorphous cloud that the internet is to most people. Blum traveled widely and researched extensively in fulfillment of his goal but the result as set in the book is quite shallow. He obviously didn't want to scare a layman with too many technical details, but all the gushing about locations and geography, pseudo-philosophical and poetical asides and, most annoyingly, extensive descriptions of people completely defeated the purpose. Who cares what he had for dinner the day he saw Tata land a new undersea cable on a beach in Portugal or what the engineer who gave him a tour of a telecom hotel was wearing? You are trying to figure out the physical layout of the internet not put a human face to it, stick to the technology! Talking of technology, there was very little of it. Somebody who is already familiar with the subject matter can find tiny little nuggets of actual relevant information scattered about, but I doubt anybody else would even recognize them as such. Then again, maybe that's not why a normal person would be reading this book? Then why?

On the positive side, I found his Google bashing a bit amusing (they allowed him on their data center campus, but refused to let him into the data center). And I did enjoy his very respectful attitude toward network engineers, he never once confused them with network administrators :)
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Finished latest Ben Elton's book, "Two Brothers". It's unlike anything he's ever written so far and came at me completely unexpected. I gave it five stars on Goodreads but will not say that I recommend it. No more than I would recommend The Diary of a Young Girl, or Babiy Yar, or Heavy Sand to a general audience. It's not the type of book one "recommends" except on a very personal basis. It's a story of two boys born on the same day in February of 1920 in Berlin, brothers in every way that mattered except by blood in the time when blood came to mean everything. Incidentally, on that same day the German National Socialist Party was also born. The next twenty five years of German history as witnessed by the boys and their family and friends as well as few glimpses into the future is what the book is about. Not an easy or entertaining read except in that Elton writes in such a way that you can't put down the book. Or I couldn't. Because, of course, how could one not relate?

Ben Elton based the book on the history of various members of his own family, some of whom, but not all, were lucky to escape Germany before most of the German Jews were exterminated.
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Internet is finally back, it's been gone since Monday night, along with TV and the land line. Those two are also back but I missed them a lot less obviously. For a few hours on Tuesday I was able to do with the 4G hotspot, was even able to connect to work, but cell service has been mostly down since midday yesterday. I am glad my folks moved from their old place, it got flooded and has been without power and consequently without heat and hot water since Monday. I faired quite well over all. The only scary moment was yesterday when the power went out and I was worried about the battery on my iPad and possible lack of reading material. All my paper books are still in their sixteen boxes. Power was back on within three hours, however, ConEd was fixing something. They even left a warning message on the phone... that wasn't working.

I divided my time between "The Big Bang Theory" and Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy." Book was a disappointment, btw. It's well written, better written, in fact, than Harry Potter books were, but the topic and how it was presented and treated was banal, preachy, moralizing, formulaic and boring. It certainly takes real skill to create so many unsympathetic characters you can't find one to care for, or hate, even, but I don't think that's usually the goal of a work of fiction. It didn't produce any sudden insight into the state of humanity or human relationships, no answers to any problems or any new questions, no new thoughts, or feelings, or aspirations. Made me want to take an extra shower, but that's about the extent of the impact of "The Casual Vacancy."
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Finished "Replay", a 1987 novel by Ken Grimwood. It tells a story of a 43-year old Jeff Winston who died of a heart attack one day in 1988 and woke up to find himself 18 again in 1963 in his old dorm in Emory College, Atlanta, Georgia. It's a first in a cycle of deaths/reawakenings that he calls replays, because each time he gets to relive his remaining life anew. He always again dies on the same day at the same time but what happens in between is up to him. Each replay Jeff approaches differently, he doesn't just go through the same motions over and over again, he is searching for something: happiness, meaning, reason why this is happening to him. I thought it was very well written, well thought out, believable, with very sympathetic characters. It's the type of book that makes you ask yourself, what if? Would I still make the same choices? Choose the same profession? What opportunities would I take if I could do it over? Should I start memorizing Kentucky Derby winners? The book draws you in with the events and the atmosphere and makes you wish it didn't end quite so quickly. Very enjoyable read. Recommend.

In case you were wondering, Groundhog Day didn't make it to the screens until 1993 but a short story by Richard Lupoff called "12:01 PM" about a guy stuck in a one-hour loop was printed in 1973. Also, sadly but ironically, Ken Grimwood died in 2003, of a heart attack.
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Finished both "Daemon" and "Freedom" in Daniel Suarez's duology and can now recommend them with no reservations. I liked the way it was written and the nice balance of contemporary technology just pushed to the very edge of its abilities, making it believable but still exciting for our inner geeks. And it's well researched so there are no glaring errors leaving you yelling at the book in exasperation (well, I yell or at least grumble at mistakes in books, and movies, but you might be a more tolerant and patient kind so then it's not a consideration). I felt that few plot lines were left sort of dangling, but it might have been intentional because he was trying to have glimpses into different aspects of development of the new order. And it was too America-centered even though it is supposed to be a global phenomenon. And why is that when Americans write Russian characters they give them the lamest names, huh?

Oh, and as for the ideas expressed... I am afraid we quite differ in our outlook on life with the author, I have a hard time believing in the overall goodness of humanity and don't think it would ever fall out the way he envisioned it. Still, very exciting, absorbing and action packed, do read it.
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List of new books I read this year )

I just noticed this is the first time ever I don't have a single book in Russian in the list. And I know I didn't reread any of my old favorites either. Which means that the only Russian texts I read this year were LJ entries.
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Went to see CHINGLISH in Longacre Theater today. It was a last minute suggestion by Lena (some of her friends were going) and I didn't even bother to check what the play was about, just got a vague notion that it was some kind of a situation comedy based on language confusion between Chinese and English with a love story thrown in. Well, not to spoil the story, because I do highly recommend you go and see the play if you have a chance, but it was a hilarious take on an American businessman coming to China hoping to give a boost to his declining business. It was funny, clever, well acted and well staged. We all unanimously agreed that the play was worth every minute of our time and every dollar we spent on the excellent orchestra seats Lena procured for us.
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Finished latest Neal Stephenson's novel "Reamde". I love his previous books, they are among my favorites, especially Cryptonomicon, which was completely brilliant and I can't recommend it enough. So this thriller that he wrote was very disappointing. It started out great and then devolved into a mediocre shootout riddled with implausible coincidences, difficult to believe character interactions, motivations and reactions, and general shallowness. Out of major characters I cared for a story of exactly one and there wasn't nearly enough of him.

On top of the weakness of an overall plot, Stephenson made several errors in subjects I am passably competent in (internet networks and Russian), which made me question the accuracy of the bits in which I would have no first hand knowledge. Sloppy research? The book could also use a good editor and a round of proofreading.

The book is fast paced and does work well as a thriller, if you like that genre. It just doesn't work so well as Neal Stephenson's book.

Book review

Aug. 2nd, 2009 09:24 pm
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Finished reading Neal Stephenson's debut book "The Big U". It first came out in 1984 and, since Stephenson is much inclined to reference all sorts of computer and technology related issues, is a bit dated. The idea of the book is definitely entertaining, I mean, how can a civil war on a college campus not be fun? The "thoughtful" parts: a bit of philosophy he threw in; the ideas on how environment affects behavior, or vise versa; individual responsibility, etc. He also must have had a hell of a college experience at BU! But the characters are a bit raw and some of the plot just sort of hangs in there begging the question "huh?" The giant radioactive rats in the sublevels reminded me of Matt Ruff's sharks in "Sewer, Gas & Electric" (The Big U did come out way before Ruff's work, of course, I just read them in the wrong order). Overall I enjoyed the book way more than expected. Made me want to go back to college. I especially liked the fact that the book is unmistakably Stephenson, with his unique style and voice, even though you can detect certain other influences (that would be almost mandatory for a book coming out in 1984!) Oh, and it's only 300-pages long, you can tell he was young and impatient then.
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Отвратительный тур. Много кривых, плохо отредактированных вопросов, убивших все удовольствие от игры.
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Один совсем противный вопрос, спасибо автору/редакторам, и большая любовь к вопросам на инсайты. Не очень понравилось, но играть можно.
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Большое количество вопросов, которые взять без специфического и довольно неинтересного знания практически невозможно. Многие недостатки тура могла бы исправить приличная редактура.
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Тур несложный, но приятный
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Решила все-таки добить свою "коллекцию" русских фильмов и посмотрела почти год назад записанного мамой "Статского советника". Год ждала, потому что у меня по жизни на русское кино идиосинкразия, приходится долго морально готовиться перед просмотром, ну и первая экранизация Акунина меня совсем в свое время не вдохновила. Но после "Волкодава" мне уже ничего было не страшно. "Статский советник" на мой взгляд лучшая из трех попыток. Хотя с голубоглазостью Фандорина по прежнему большая проблема и Маса вышел совершенно неубедительный. Основная актерская работа очень приличная, режиссер тоже неплохо сработал, костюмы и грим на уровне. Сценарий близок к тексту оригинала, что я всегда очень приветствую. Вот только почему они упорно переписывают концовку? Ладно в Гамбите это не важно, но в данном случае это совершенно меняет все написанное после. Т.е. в дальнейших экранизациях, если таковые будут иметь место, нужно либо игнорировать концовку Советника, либо заново переписывать все последующие события. Ерунда получается. В целом - неплохое кино.
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Посмотрела за выходные три фильма по трем хорошим книгам.

Hogfather )

Турецкий гамбит )

Волкодав )

Book review

Jan. 5th, 2007 12:54 pm
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Прочитала сборник "Фэнтези 2007" подаренный мамой на Новый Год. Он разделен на подсекции из которых больше всего понравились "Повелители стихий", а меньше всего "Магический детектив". То ли мою нелюбовь к детективам не может вылечить даже наличие в них магов и ведьм, то ли туда просто всю чушь запихали. Скорее второе, потому как на мой взгляд разделение на секции вполне себе арбитральное. Несколько вещиц хотелось чтобы авторы развили из коротенького рассказа в полноформатное произведение. Но вообще, судя по данному сборнику, в русской фэнтези наблюдается явный дефицит оригинальных идей и их удачных воплощений в "жизнь".

Цитата специально для w_poohПуха:

<...> будет теперь Пуху забава в новом Лесу. Опять, небось, наклюкается с Пятачком и пойдет пугать истеричных жужжалок, говоря, что он маленькая черная тучка, страдающая большой белой горячкой.

Book review

Jan. 3rd, 2007 12:03 pm
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If as a child you enjoyed Gerald Durrell's excellent books (as I did, and in fact still do), pick up Douglas Adams's and Mark Carwardine's "Last Chance to See". The book covers a year-long trip around the world to visit some of the world's most endangered species in their native habitats that Adams and some other people undertook on behalf of BBC in 1988. And then Adams wrote a book about it with all the humor that one would expect and some of the zoological details and environmental insights that come as a nice surprise. Even if you couldn't care less about the fate of kakapos, Komodo dragons, aye-ayes, all of which while still endangered are alive and have a chance, or baiji dolphins, which were declared "functionally extinct" on December 13, 2006, give this book a try. If nothing else, Adams's description of attempts to buy condoms in China (successful) or some snacks in the Tanzanian international transit lounge (unsuccessful) will have you in stitches.

Some quotes )
riontel: (Default)
Прочитала я эту "Малышку и Карлссона". Невзирая на провокационное название, оказалось обычное легкое фэнтези с хорошими троллями, плохими эльфами и прочим фэнтезийным антуражем. Живенько написано, ага ;-) Редактору, или кому там по званию положено тексты вычитывать, хочется посоветовать поменять специальность на что-нибудь не требующее знания букв. А так развлекательно, читабельно, на мозги не давит, любителям жанра рекомендую. Доступно здесь.
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Посмотрела игру в домике. Либер - это голова ) Если есть желающие посмотреть, дайте знать.

Прочла нового Акунина. Получила огромное удовольствие. Как обычно, детективная интрига в большинстве случаях довольно прозрачна, но написаны рассказы в типично акунинском стиле, все разные, с юмором и занятными отсылками к классикам. В процессе чтения возник вопрос ). Кстати, действие полностью происходит в XIX веке, а не в XX, так что [livejournal.com profile] vgramagin что-то перепутал. Если есть желающие почитать, записывайтесь в очередь.

Цитата:
...он воткнул мне палец в живот, и я был вынужден замолчать, потому что, когда тебя со всей силы тыкают жестким пальцем в солнечное сплетение, совершенно невозможно ни вдохнуть, ни выдохнуть.

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